Washington Irving


Washington Irving, oil painting by J.W. Jarvis, 1809; in the Historic Hudson Valley collection.
(click to enlarge)
Washington Irving, oil painting by J.W. Jarvis, 1809; in the Historic Hudson Valley collection. (credit: Courtesy of Historic Hudson Valley)
(born April 3, 1783, New York, N.Y., U.S.died Nov. 28, 1859, Tarrytown, N.Y.) U.S. author, called the first American man of letters. He began his career as a lawyer but soon became a leader of the group that published Salmagundi (180708), a periodical containing whimsical essays and poems. After his comic A History of New Yorkby Diedrich Knickerbocker (1809), he wrote little until his very successful The Sketch Book (181920), containing his best-known stories, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and Rip Van Winkle. It was followed by a sequel, Bracebridge Hall (1822). He held diplomatic positions in Madrid, Spain, and writings such as The Alhambra (1832) reflect his interest in Spain's past.

For more information on Washington Irving, visit Britannica.com.

Irving, Washington (1783–1859), author and critic. If this great early American writer is best remembered for his biographies, histories, and romantic short stories, he was also an important, if largely indirectly so, figure in the American theatre of his day. Among his first published pieces were “The Letters of Jonathan Oldstyle, Gent.,” which were serialized in 1802–03 in the New York Morning Chronicle and also published separately and which offered his personal views of contemporary plays and performers. Further observations on the theatre, usually satirical and not nearly as important, appeared in Salmagundi, which he wrote in 1807–08 with his brother, William, and J. K. Paulding. Both in America and in Europe, where he spent some time, Irving made many important theatrical friends, including John Howard Payne, with whom he collaborated on half a dozen plays, the most important of which were Charles the Second; or, The Merry Monarch (1824) and Richelieu, A Domestic Tragedy (1826). The former enjoyed widespread popularity but the failure of the latter and other works prompted Irving to write to Payne, “I am sorry to say I cannot afford to write any more for the theatre. . . . The experiment has satisfied me that I should never at any time be compensated for my trouble.” In the long run, it was other men's adaptations of his stories, especially Rip Van Winkle, that made him an enduring figure in our theatre.


Considered the first professional man of letters in the United States, Washington Irving (1783-1859) was influential in the development of the short story form and helped to gain international respect for fledgling American literature.

Following the tradition of the eighteenth-century essay exemplified by the elegant, lightly humorous prose of Joseph Addison and Oliver Goldsmith, Irving created endearing and often satiric short stories and sketches. In his most-acclaimed work, The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent. (1819-20), he wove elements of myth and folklore into narratives, such as "Rip Van Winkle" and "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, " that achieved almost immediate classic status. Although Irving was also renowned in his lifetime for his extensive work in history and biography, it was through his short stories that he most strongly influenced American writing in subsequent generations and introduced a number of now-familiar images and archetypes into the body of the national literature.

Irving was born and raised in New York City, the youngest of eleven children of a prosperous merchant family. A dreamy and ineffectual student, he apprenticed himself in a law office rather than follow his elder brothers to nearby Columbia College. In his free time, he read avidly and wandered when he could in the misty, rolling Hudson River Valley, an area steeped in local folklore and legend that would serve as an inspiration for his later writings.

As a nineteen-year-old, Irving began contributing satirical letters under the pseudonym Jonathan Oldstyle to a newspaper owned by his brother Peter. His first book, Salmagundi; or, The Whim-Whams and Opinions of Launcelot Langstaff, Esq., and Others (1807-08), was a collaboration with another brother, William, and their friend James Kirke Paulding. This highly popular collection of short pieces poked fun at the political, social, and cultural life of the city. Irving enjoyed a second success in 1809 with A History of New York, from the Beginning of the World to the End of the Dutch Dynasty, a comical, deliberately inaccurate account of New York's Dutch colonization narrated by the fictitious Diedrich Knickerbocker, a fusty, colorful Dutch-American. His carefree social life and literary successes were shadowed at this time, however, by the death of his fiancee, Matilda Hoffmann, and for the next several years he floundered, wavering between a legal, mercantile, and editorial career. In 1815 he moved to England to work in the failing Liverpool branch of the family import-export business. Within three years the company was bankrupt, and, finding himself at age thirty-five without means of support, Irving decided that he would earn his living by writing. He began recording the impressions, thoughts, and descriptions which, polished and repolished in his meticulous manner, became the pieces that make up The Sketch Book. The volume was brought out under the pseudonym of Geoffrey Crayon, who was purportedly a good-natured American roaming Britain on his first trip abroad.

The Sketch Book comprises some thirty parts: about half English sketches, four general travel reminiscences, six literary essays, two descriptions of the American Indian, three essentially unclassifiable pieces, and three short stories: "Rip Van Winkle," "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,"and "The Spectre Bridegroom." Although only the last-named tale is set in Germany, all three stories draw upon the legends of that country. The book was published almost concurrently in the United States and England in order to escape the piracy to which literary works were vulnerable before international copyright laws, a shrewd move that many subsequent authors copied. The miscellaneous nature of The Sketch Book was an innovation that appealed to a broad range of readers; the work received a great deal of attention and sold briskly, and Irving found himself America's first international literary celebrity. In addition, the book's considerable profits allowed Irving to devote himself full-time to writing.

Remaining abroad for more than a decade after the appearance of The Sketch Book, Irving wrote steadily, capitalizing on his international success with two subsequent collections of tales and sketches that also appeared under the name Geoffrey Crayon. Bracebridge Hall; or, the Humorists: A Medley (1822) centers loosely around a fictitious English clan that Irving had introduced in several of the Sketch Book pieces. Bracebridge Hall further describes their manners, customs, and habits, and interjects several unrelated short stories, including "The Student from Salamanca" and "The Stout Gentleman." Tales of a Traveller (1824) consists entirely of short stories arranged in four categories: European stories, tales of London literary life, accounts of Italian bandits, and narrations by Irving's alter-ego, Diedrich Knickerbocker. The most enduring of these, according to many critics, are "The German Student," which some consider a significant early example of supernatural fiction, and "The Devil and Tom Walker," a Yankee tale that like "Rip Van Winkle" draws upon myth and legend for characters and incident. After 1824 Irving increasingly turned his attention from fiction and descriptive writing toward history and biography. He lived for several years in Spain, serving as a diplomatic attache to the American legation while writing a life of Christopher Columbus and a history of Granada. During this period he also began gathering material for The Alhambra (1832), a vibrantly romantic collection of sketches and tales centered around the Moorish palace in Granada.

Irving served as secretary to the American embassy in London from 1829 until 1832, when he returned to the United States. After receiving warm accolades from the literary and academic communities, he set out on a tour of the rugged western part of the country, which took him as far as Oklahoma. The expedition resulted in three books about the region, notably A Tour on the Prairies (1835), which provided easterners with their first description of life out west by a well-known author. Irving eventually settled near Tarrytown, New York, at a small estate on the Hudson River, which he named Sunnyside. Apart from four years in Madrid and Barcelona, which he spent as President John Tyler's minister to Spain, Irving lived there the rest of his life. Among the notable works of his later years is an extensive biography of George Washington, which Irving worked on determinedly, despite ill health, from the early 1850s until a few months before his death in 1859.

The Sketch Book prompted the first widespread critical response to Irving's writings. Reviewers in the United States were generally delighted with the work of their native son, and even English critics, normally hostile in that era to American authors, accorded the book generally favorable - if somewhat condescending - notice. Among the pieces singled out for praise in the early reviews were most frequently the three short stories, particularly "Rip Van Winkle." Critics found Irving's style pleasingly elegant, fine, and humorous, although some, including Richard Henry Dana, perceived a lack of intellectual content beneath the decorative surface. Dana also observed that in adopting the authorial persona of Geoffrey Crayon - with his prose style modeled after the eighteenth-century essayists - Irving lost the robustness, high color, and comic vigor of his previous incarnations as Jonathan Oldstyle, Launcelot Langstaff, and Diedrich Knickerbocker, an observation that was echoed by later critics. Subsequent "Crayon" works, such as Bracebridge Hall, Tales of a Traveller, and The Alhambra, while generally valued for their prose style, tended to prompt such complaints as that by the Irish author Maria Edgeworth that "the workmanship surpasses the work."

Beginning in the 1950s, however, critics began to explore technical and thematic innovations in Irving's short stories. These include the integration of folklore, myth, and fable into narrative fiction; setting and landscape as a reflection of theme and mood; the expression of the supernatural and use of Gothic elements in some stories; and the tension between imagination and creativity versus materialism and productivity in nineteenth-century America. Many critics read Rip's twenty-year sleep as a rejection of the capitalistic values of his society - ferociously personified by the shrewish Dame Van Winkle - and an embracing of the world of the imagination. Ichabod Crane, too, has been viewed by such critics as Robert Bone as representing the outcast artist-intellectual in American society, although he has been considered, conversely, as a caricature of the acquisitive, scheming Yankee Puritan, a type that Irving lampooned regularly in his early satirical writings.

Today, many critics concur with Fred Lewis Pattee's assertion that the "American short story began in 1819 with Washington Irving." Commentators agree, moreover, that in "Rip Van Winkle" and "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow," Irving established an artistic standard and model for subsequent generations of American short story writers. As George Snell wrote: "It is quite possible to say that Irving unconsciously shaped a principal current in American fiction, whatever may be the relative unimportance of his own work." In their continuing attention to the best of Irving's short fiction, critics affirm that while much of Irving's significance belongs properly to literary history, such stories as "Rip Van Winkle" and "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" belong to literary art.

Further Reading

Bleiler, E. F., editor, Supernatural Fiction Writers: Fantasy and Horror 2: A. E. Coppard to Roger Zelazny, Scribners, 1985, pp. 685-91.

Bowden, Mary Weatherspoon, Washington Irving, Twayne, 1981.

Concise Dictionary of American Literary Biography: Colonization to the American Renaissance, 1640-1865, Gale, 1988.

Dictionary of Literary Biography, Gale, Volume 3: Antebellum Writers in New York and the South, 1979, Volume 11: American Humorists, 1800-1950, 1982, Volume 30: American Historians, 1607-1865, 1984, Volume 59: American Literary Critics and Scholars, 1800-1850, 1987, Volume 73: American Magazine Journalists 1741-1850, 1988, Volume 74: American Short-Story Writers before 1880, 1988.

Harbert, Earl N., and Robert A. Rees, editor, Fifteen American Authors before 1900: Bibliographic Essays on Research and Criticism, University of Wisconsin Press, 1984.

Hedges, William L., Washington Irving: An American Study, 1802-1832, Johns Hopkins Press, 1965.

Leary, Lewis, Washington Irving, University of Minnesota Press, 1963.


Irving, Washington (1783–1859), American author of essays, travel books, biographies, and true and legendary histories. His first notable success, A History of New York (1809), supposedly written by the fictitious Diedrich Knickerbocker, created a legendary history for his native city while satirizing both its early Dutch inhabitants and contemporary American politicians. Irving's strong interest in folklore also influenced The Alhambra (1832), which incorporates several Moorish legends, gracefully retold, into an account of his stay in Granada. He is most famous for two stories included in The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent. (1819–20): ‘The Legend of Sleepy Hollow’ and ‘Rip Van Winkle’. While the ‘Legend’ pokes fun at Ichabod Crane's superstitious credulity, ‘Rip Van Winkle’ is a genuine fairy tale—the first with a distinctively American flavour. Irving successfully transposed the European motif of the enchanted sleeper to his own Hudson River Valley, substituting for the traditional fairy revellers the explorer Hendrick Hudson and his crew. Both stories have inspired numerous painters, illustrators (including Arthur Rackham and N. C. Wyeth), cartoonists, and dramatists. A stage version of Rip Van Winkle (1860) starring Joseph Jefferson was one of the longest‐running hits in the history of the American theatre, while the plots of ‘Rip’ and ‘The Legend’ were ingeniously interwoven in Robert Planquette's opera Rip Van Winkle (1882).


  • Attebery, Brian, The Fantasy Tradition in American Literature (1980).
  • Rubin‐Dorsky, Jeffrey, Adrift in the Old World: The Psychological Pilgrimage of Washington Irving (1988).
  • Tuttleton, James W. (ed.), Washington Irving: The Critical Reaction (1993).

— Suzanne Rahn

Irving, Washington, 1783-1859, American author and diplomat, b. New York City. Irving was one of the first Americans to be recognized abroad as a man of letters, and he was a literary idol at home.

Early Life and Work

While he studied law, Irving amused himself by writing for periodicals such essays on New York society and the theater as the Letters of Jonathan Oldstyle, Gent. (1802-3). From 1804 to 1806 his older brothers financed his tour of France and Italy. On his return he joined William Irving and J. K. Paulding in publishing Salmagundi; or, The Whim-Whams and Opinions of Launcelot Langstaff & Others (1807-8), a series of humorous and satirical essays. Under the pseudonym Diedrich Knickerbocker, he published A History of New York (1809), a satire that has been called the first great book of comic literature written by an American. Purporting to be a scholarly account of the Dutch occupation of the New World, the book is a burlesque of history books as well as a satire of politics in his own time.

Later Life and Mature Work

Irving went to England in 1815 to run the Liverpool branch of the family hardware business, but could not save it when the whole firm failed. Thereupon, with the encouragement of Walter Scott, Irving turned definitely to literature. The stories (including "Rip Van Winkle" and "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow"), collected in The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent. (London, 1820), appeared serially in New York in 1819-20; their enthusiastic reception made Irving the best-known figure in American literature both at home and abroad. Bracebridge Hall (1822), the next volume of essays, although inferior to the previous book, was well received. However, his Tales of a Traveller (1824), written after visits to Germany and France, was a failure.

Irving became a diplomatic attaché at the American embassy in Madrid in 1826. There he produced his biography of Columbus (1828), largely based on the work of the Spanish historian Navarrete; The Conquest of Granada (1829), a romantic narrative; and the soft, casually charming Spanish sketches of The Alhambra (1832). After a short period at the American legation in London, he returned to New York. In search of colorful material, he made a journey to the frontier and wrote about the American West in A Tour of the Prairies (1835). From records furnished by John Jacob Astor, he wrote Astoria (1836), with Pierre Irving, and The Adventures of Captain Bonneville, U.S.A. (1837).

Irving subsequently established himself at his estate, Sunnyside, near Tarrytown, N.Y., until he was sent to Madrid as American minister to Spain (1842-46). Once more at Sunnyside, he wrote a biography of Goldsmith (1849) and the miscellaneous sketches called Wolfert's Roost (1855) and labored at his biography of George Washington (5 vol., 1855-59), which he completed just before his death.

Irving was master of a graceful and unobtrusively sophisticated prose style. A gentle but effective satirist, he was the creator of a few widely loved essays and tales that have made his name endure.


Irving's journals were edited by W. P. Trent and G. S. Hellman (3 vol., 1919, repr. 1970); The Western Journals (1944) by J. F. McDermott. See also his life and letters by P. M. Irving (4 vol., 1864; repr. 1967); biographies by S. T. Williams (2 vol., 1935; repr. 1971), C. D. Warner (1981), and A. Burstein (2007); studies by W. L. Hedges (1965, repr. 1980) and J. Rubin-Dorsky (1988).


1802Letters of Jonathan Oldstyle, Gent. A collection of satires of social life in New York, mostly devoted to the theater. Written when Irving was only nineteen, the essays win him his first recognition. A New York publisher pirated the essays in 1824, and five editions are attributed to "the Author of the Sketch Book."
1807Salmagundi; or, The Whim-Whams and Opinions of Launcelot Langstaff, Esq., and Others. Written with William Irving (1766-1821) and James Kirke Paulding (1778-1860), the miscellany includes political satires and critiques of theater, music, fashion, Jeffersonian democracy, and New York society. Named for a spicy salad, Salmagundi is the first collection of its kind in the United States and becomes instantly popular.
1809A History of New York, from the Beginning of the World to the End of the Dutch Dynasty, by Diedrich Knickerbocker. A satirical record of the history of the Dutch settlement and a criticism of Jeffersonian democracy. The story introduces readers to Knickerbocker, who would become a famous American literary character. It is widely considered the first great book of comic literature written by an American.
1810Biographical Sketch of Thomas Campbell. Irving supplies a biographical profile of the Scottish poet whose work Irving had compiled.
1819The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent. A collection of essays and tales, considered one of the most important books in American literary history and often credited with originating the American short story. The sketches show Irving's transition toward the Romanticism of Sir Walter Scott and his contemporaries. Included are the immensely popular Americanized versions of German folk tales, "Rip Van Winkle" and "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow," and the travel stories "Stratford on Avon" and "Westminster Abbey." The success of the book catapults Irving to celebrity status.
1822Bracebridge Hall; or, The Humorists. A collection of forty-nine sketches and stories in the manner of his earlier Sketch Book with the same narrator, Geoffrey Crayon. It is chiefly remembered for "Dolph Heyliger," "The Storm Ship," "The Stout Gentleman," and "Student of Salamanca." Although widely read, it wins only moderate critical acclaim.
1824Tales of a Traveller. Irving's only collection composed entirely of fiction receives unfavorable reviews until later lauded by Edgar Allan Poe and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. The thirty-two stories are divided into four sections: the first is told by Englishmen, the second is about a young man who wants to be a writer, the third is about Italian bandits, and the final contains "The Devil and Tom Walker," one of Irving's finest stories.
1828History of the Life and Voyages of Christopher Columbus. A very popular biography based mostly on the work of the Spanish scholar Navarrete and written during Irving's time as diplomatic attaché in Spain. Highly acclaimed by reviewers, the book bolsters Irving's reputation and earns him an honorary LL.D. degree from Oxford and the gold medal of the Royal Society of Literature in 1830. It is the first of Irving's books not published under a pseudonym.
1829A Chronicle of the Conquest of Granada. A recounting of the battles that ended Muslim power in Spain in the fifteenth century. Based on thorough research and highly regarded for its accuracy, Irving's book employs a fictional narrator to present history in the form of tales.
1831Voyages and Discoveries of the Companions of Columbus. Irving publishes a sequel to his Columbus biography, completing the story of the early explorers.
1832The Alhambra. Considered Irving's Spanish Sketch Book, this is a collection of adapted Andalusian lore, anecdotes, and descriptions of architecture and scenery of the Moorish castle in Spain where Irving lived in 1829. The book would generate an interest in romantic Alhambraism and remain an important document in Granada's history.
1835A Tour on the Prairies. The first volume of The Crayon Miscellany, which comprises three works published under the pseudonym "Geoffrey Crayon." A Tour is an account of Irving's travels westward from Arkansas into what is now Oklahoma and depicts his frontier adventures, including buffalo hunting, in a romantic reflection of western life.
1836Astoria; or, Anecdotes of an Enterprise Beyond the Rocky Mountains. An exciting history of the wealthy merchant John Jacob Astor's Pacific Fur Company (1810-1813), which he had established in Fort Clatsop, Oregon, and sold to British traders during the War of 1812. Astor collaborated with Irving, providing records and helping gather former employees for interviews; the work remains a valuable history of the early fur trade.
1837The Adventures of Captain Bonneville in the Rocky Mountains and the Far West. A narrative of Benjamin Louis Eulalie de Bonneville's (1793-1878) trapping expedition in the Rocky Mountains, taken from the explorer's personal maps and papers. The objective novel provides eastern readers with a picture of the American effort on the frontier and shows Irving's sympathy for Native Americans.
1855Wolfert's Roost. An enormously popular collection of fables previously published in the Knickerbocker Magazine. It includes whimsical Spanish romances and scenes around Westchester County.
1855The Life of George Washington. A popular biography that presents a broad view of the Revolutionary era as well as descriptions of Washington's contemporaries; it would remain the standard biography of Washington for decades. The final volume is published just weeks before Irving's death.
1866Spanish Papers and Other Miscellanies. Irving's collection of Spanish chronicles and legends is published posthumously.

Wikipedia on Answers.com:

Washington Irving

This article is about the writer. For the cricketer, see Irving Washington.
Washington Irving
Daguerreotype of Washington Irving
(modern copy by Mathew Brady,
original by John Plumbe)
Born (1783-04-03)April 3, 1783
New York City, New York
Died November 28, 1859(1859-11-28) (aged 76)
Sunnyside, Tarrytown, New York
Occupation Short story writer, essayist, biographer, magazine editor, diplomat
Literary movement Romanticism


Washington Irving (April 3, 1783 – November 28, 1859) was an American author, essayist, biographer, historian, and diplomat of the early 19th century. He is best known for his short stories "Rip Van Winkle" (1819) and "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" (1820), both of which appear in his book The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent.. His historical works include biographies of George Washington, Oliver Goldsmith and Muhammad, and several histories of 15th-century Spain dealing with subjects such as Christopher Columbus, the Moors and the Alhambra. Irving served as the U.S. ambassador to Spain from 1842 to 1846.

He made his literary debut in 1802 with a series of observational letters to the Morning Chronicle, written under the pseudonym Jonathan Oldstyle. After moving to England for the family business in 1815, he achieved international fame with the publication of The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent. in 1819–20. He continued to publish regularly — and almost always successfully — throughout his life, and completed a five-volume biography of George Washington just eight months before his death, at age 76, in Tarrytown, New York.

Irving, along with James Fenimore Cooper, was among the first American writers to earn acclaim in Europe, and Irving encouraged American authors such as Nathaniel Hawthorne, Herman Melville, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, and Edgar Allan Poe. Irving was also admired by some European writers, including Walter Scott, Lord Byron, Thomas Campbell, Francis Jeffrey, and Charles Dickens. As America's first genuine internationally best-selling author, Irving advocated for writing as a legitimate profession, and argued for stronger laws to protect American writers from copyright infringement.


Early years[edit]

Washington Irving's parents were William Irving, Sr., originally of Quholm, Shapinsay, Orkney, and Sarah (née Sanders), Scottish-English immigrants. They married in 1761 while William was serving as a petty officer in the British Navy. They had eleven children, eight of whom survived to adulthood. Their first two sons, each named William, died in infancy, as did their fourth child, John. Their surviving children were: William, Jr. (1766), Ann (1770), Peter (1772), Catherine (1774), Ebenezer (1776), John Treat (1778), Sarah (1780) and Washington.[1]

Watercolor of Washington Irving's Encounter with George Washington

The Irving family settled in Manhattan, New York City, and was part of the city's small, vibrant merchant class when Washington Irving was born on April 3, 1783,[1] the same week city residents learned of the British ceasefire that ended the American Revolution; Irving’s mother named him after the hero of the revolution, George Washington.[2] At age six, with the help of a nanny, Irving met his namesake, who was then living in New York after his inauguration as president in 1789. The president blessed young Irving,[3] an encounter Irving later commemorated in a small watercolor painting, which still hangs in his home today.[4] The Irvings lived at 131 William Street at the time of Washington Irving's birth. The family later moved across the street to 128 William St.[5] Several of Washington Irving's older brothers became active New York merchants, and they encouraged their younger brother's literary aspirations, often supporting him financially as he pursued his writing career.

An uninterested student, Irving preferred adventure stories and drama and, by age fourteen, was regularly sneaking out of class in the evenings to attend the theater.[6] The 1798 outbreak of yellow fever in Manhattan prompted his family to send him to healthier climes upriver, and Irving was dispatched to stay with his friend James Kirke Paulding in Tarrytown, New York. It was in Tarrytown that Irving became familiar with the nearby town of Sleepy Hollow, with its quaint Dutch customs and local ghost stories.[7] Irving made several other trips up the Hudson as a teenager, including an extended visit to Johnstown, New York, where he passed through the Catskill mountain region, the setting for "Rip Van Winkle". "[O]f all the scenery of the Hudson", Irving wrote later, "the Kaatskill Mountains had the most witching effect on my boyish imagination".[8]

The 19-year-old Irving began writing letters to the New York Morning Chronicle in 1802, submitting commentaries on the city's social and theater scene under the name of Jonathan Oldstyle. The name, which purposely evoked the writer's Federalist leanings,[9] was the first of many pseudonyms Irving would employ throughout his career. The letters brought Irving some early fame and moderate notoriety. Aaron Burr, a co-publisher of the Chronicle, was impressed enough to send clippings of the Oldstyle pieces to his daughter, Theodosia, while writer Charles Brockden Brown made a trip to New York to recruit Oldstyle for a literary magazine he was editing in Philadelphia.[10]

Concerned for his health, Irving's brothers financed an extended tour of Europe from 1804 to 1806. Irving bypassed most of the sites and locations considered essential for the development of an upwardly mobile young man, to the dismay of his brother William. William wrote that, though he was pleased his brother's health was improving, he did not like the choice to "gallop through Italy... leaving Florence on your left and Venice on your right".[11] Instead, Irving honed the social and conversational skills that would later make him one of the world's most in-demand guests.[12] "I endeavor to take things as they come with cheerfulness", Irving wrote, "and when I cannot get a dinner to suit my taste, I endeavor to get a taste to suit my dinner".[13] While visiting Rome in 1805, Irving struck up a friendship with the American painter Washington Allston,[11] and nearly allowed himself to be persuaded into following Allston into a career as a painter. "My lot in life, however", Irving said later, "was differently cast".[14]

First major writings[edit]

Irving returned from Europe to study law with his legal mentor, Judge Josiah Ogden Hoffman, in New York City. By his own admission, he was not a good student, and barely passed the bar in 1806.[15] Irving began actively socializing with a group of literate young men he dubbed "The Lads of Kilkenny".[16] Collaborating with his brother William and fellow Lad James Kirke Paulding, Irving created the literary magazine Salmagundi in January 1807. Writing under various pseudonyms, such as William Wizard and Launcelot Langstaff, Irving lampooned New York culture and politics in a manner similar to today's Mad magazine.[17] Salmagundi was a moderate success, spreading Irving's name and reputation beyond New York. In its seventeenth issue, dated November 11, 1807, Irving affixed the nickname "Gotham" — an Anglo-Saxon word meaning "Goat's Town" — to New York City.[18]

The fictional "Diedrich Knickerbocker" from the frontispiece of A History of New-York, a wash drawing by Felix O. C. Darley
Portrait of Washington Irving by John Wesley Jarvis, from 1809

In late 1809, while mourning the death of his seventeen-year-old fiancée Matilda Hoffman, Irving completed work on his first major book, A History of New-York from the Beginning of the World to the End of the Dutch Dynasty, by Diedrich Knickerbocker (1809), a satire on self-important local history and contemporary politics. Prior to its publication, Irving started a hoax akin to today's viral marketing campaigns; he placed a series of missing person adverts in New York newspapers seeking information on Diedrich Knickerbocker, a crusty Dutch historian who had allegedly gone missing from his hotel in New York City. As part of the ruse, Irving placed a notice—allegedly from the hotel's proprietor—informing readers that if Mr. Knickerbocker failed to return to the hotel to pay his bill, he would publish a manuscript Knickerbocker had left behind.[19]

Unsuspecting readers followed the story of Knickerbocker and his manuscript with interest, and some New York city officials were concerned enough about the missing historian that they considered offering a reward for his safe return. Riding the wave of public interest he had created with his hoax, Irving—adopting the pseudonym of his Dutch historian—published A History of New York on December 6, 1809, to immediate critical and popular success.[20] "It took with the public", Irving remarked, "and gave me celebrity, as an original work was something remarkable and uncommon in America".[21] Today, the surname of Diedrich Knickerbocker, the fictional narrator of this and other Irving works, has become a nickname for Manhattan residents in general.[22]

After the success of A History of New York, Irving searched for a job and eventually became an editor of Analectic Magazine, where he wrote biographies of naval heroes like James Lawrence and Oliver Perry.[23] He was also among the first magazine editors to reprint Francis Scott Key's poem "Defense of Fort McHenry", which would later be immortalized as "The Star-Spangled Banner", the national anthem of the United States.[24]

Like many merchants and New Yorkers, Irving originally opposed the War of 1812, but the British attack on Washington, D.C. in 1814 convinced him to enlist.[25] He served on the staff of Daniel Tompkins, governor of New York and commander of the New York State Militia. Apart from a reconnaissance mission in the Great Lakes region, he saw no real action.[26] The war was disastrous for many American merchants, including Irving's family, and in mid-1815 he left for England to attempt to salvage the family trading company. He remained in Europe for the next seventeen years.[27]

Life in Europe[edit]

The Sketch Book[edit]

The front page of The Sketch Book (1819)

Irving spent the next two years trying to bail out the family firm financially but eventually had to declare bankruptcy.[28] With no job prospects, Irving continued writing throughout 1817 and 1818. In the summer of 1817, he visited Walter Scott, beginning a lifelong personal and professional friendship.[29] Irving continued writing: he composed the short story "Rip Van Winkle" overnight while staying with his sister Sarah and her husband, Henry van Wart in Birmingham, England, a place that also inspired other works.[30] In October 1818, Irving's brother William secured for Irving a post as chief clerk to the United States Navy, and urged him to return home.[31] Irving turned the offer down, opting to stay in England to pursue a writing career.[32]

In the spring of 1819, Irving sent to his brother Ebenezer in New York a set of short prose pieces that he asked be published as The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent. The first installment, containing "Rip Van Winkle", was an enormous success, and the rest of the work would be equally successful; it was issued in 1819–1820 in seven installments in New York, and in two volumes in London ("The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" would appear in the sixth issue of the New York edition, and the second volume of the London edition).[33]

Like many successful authors of this era, Irving struggled against literary bootleggers.[34] In England, some of his sketches were reprinted in periodicals without his permission, a legal practice as there was no international copyright law at the time. To prevent further piracy in Britain, Irving paid to have the first four American installments published as a single volume by John Miller in London. Irving appealed to Walter Scott for help procuring a more reputable publisher for the remainder of the book. Scott referred Irving to his own publisher, London powerhouse John Murray, who agreed to take on The Sketch Book.[35] From then on, Irving would publish concurrently in the United States and Britain to protect his copyright, with Murray being his English publisher of choice.[36]

Irving's reputation soared, and for the next two years, he led an active social life in Paris and Britain, where he was often feted as an anomaly of literature: an upstart American who dared to write English well.[37]

Bracebridge Hall and Tales of a Traveller[edit]

Portrait of Irving in about 1820, attributed to Charles Robert Leslie

With both Irving and publisher John Murray eager to follow up on the success of The Sketch Book, Irving spent much of 1821 travelling in Europe in search of new material, reading widely in Dutch and German folk tales. Hampered by writer's block—and depressed by the death of his brother William—Irving worked slowly, finally delivering a completed manuscript to Murray in March 1822. The book, Bracebridge Hall, or The Humorists, A Medley (the location was based loosely on Aston Hall, occupied by members of the Bracebridge family, near his sister's home in Birmingham) was published in June 1822.

The format of Bracebridge was similar to that of The Sketch Book, with Irving, as Crayon, narrating a series of more than fifty loosely connected short stories and essays. While some reviewers thought Bracebridge to be a lesser imitation of The Sketch Book, the book was well received by readers and critics.[38] "We have received so much pleasure from this book", wrote critic Francis Jeffrey in the Edinburgh Review, "that we think ourselves bound in gratitude... to make a public acknowledgement of it."[39] Irving was relieved at its reception, which did much to cement his reputation with European readers.

Still struggling with writer's block, Irving traveled to Germany, settling in Dresden in the winter of 1822. Here he dazzled the royal family and attached himself to Mrs. Amelia Foster, an American living in Dresden with her five children.[40] Irving was particularly attracted to Mrs. Foster's 18-year-old daughter Emily, and vied in frustration for her hand. Emily finally refused his offer of marriage in the spring of 1823.[41]

He returned to Paris and began collaborating with playwright John Howard Payne on translations of French plays for the English stage, with little success. He also learned through Payne that the novelist Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley was romantically interested in him, though Irving never pursued the relationship.[42]

In August 1824, Irving published the collection of essays Tales of a Traveller—including the short story "The Devil and Tom Walker"—under his Geoffrey Crayon persona. "I think there are in it some of the best things I have ever written", Irving told his sister.[43] But while the book sold respectably, Traveller was dismissed by critics, who panned both Traveller and its author. "The public have been led to expect better things", wrote the United States Literary Gazette, while the New-York Mirror pronounced Irving "overrated".[44] Hurt and depressed by the book's reception, Irving retreated to Paris where he spent the next year worrying about finances and scribbling down ideas for projects that never materialized.[45]

Spanish books[edit]

While in Paris, Irving received a letter from Alexander Hill Everett on January 30, 1826. Everett, recently the American Minister to Spain, urged Irving to join him in Madrid,[46] noting that a number of manuscripts dealing with the Spanish conquest of the Americas had recently been made public. Irving left for Madrid and enthusiastically began scouring the Spanish archives for colorful material.[47]

The palace Alhambra, where Irving briefly resided in 1829, inspired one of his most colorful books.

With full access to the American consul's massive library of Spanish history, Irving began working on several books at once. The first offspring of this hard work, A History of the Life and Voyages of Christopher Columbus, was published in January 1828. The book was popular in the United States and in Europe and would have 175 editions published before the end of the century.[48] It was also the first project of Irving's to be published with his own name, instead of a pseudonym, on the title page.[49] He was invited to stay at the palace of the Duke of Gor, who gave him unfettered access to his library containing many medieval manuscripts.[50] Chronicle of the Conquest of Granada was published a year later,[51] followed by Voyages and Discoveries of the Companions of Columbus in 1831.[52]

Irving's writings on Columbus are a mixture of history and fiction, a genre now called romantic history. Irving based them on extensive research in the Spanish archives, but also added imaginative elements aimed at sharpening the story. The first of these works is the source of the durable myth that medieval Europeans believed the Earth was flat.[53] (See Myth of the Flat Earth.)

In 1829, Irving moved into Granada's ancient palace Alhambra, "determined to linger here", he said, "until I get some writings under way connected with the place".[54] Before he could get any significant writing underway, however, he was notified of his appointment as Secretary to the American Legation in London. Worried he would disappoint friends and family if he refused the position, Irving left Spain for England in July 1829.[55]

Secretary to the American legation in London[edit]

Arriving in London, Irving joined the staff of American Minister Louis McLane. McLane immediately assigned the daily secretary work to another man and tapped Irving to fill the role of aide-de-camp. The two worked over the next year to negotiate a trade agreement between the United States and the British West Indies, finally reaching a deal in August 1830. That same year, Irving was awarded a medal by the Royal Society of Literature, followed by an honorary doctorate of civil law from Oxford in 1831.[56]

Following McLane's recall to the United States in 1831 to serve as Secretary of Treasury, Irving stayed on as the legation's chargé d'affaires until the arrival of Martin Van Buren, President Andrew Jackson's nominee for British Minister. With Van Buren in place, Irving resigned his post to concentrate on writing, eventually completing Tales of the Alhambra, which would be published concurrently in the United States and England in 1832.[57]

Irving was still in London when Van Buren received word that the United States Senate had refused to confirm him as the new Minister. Consoling Van Buren, Irving predicted that the Senate's partisan move would backfire. "I should not be surprised", Irving said, "if this vote of the Senate goes far toward elevating him to the presidential chair".[58]

Return to America[edit]

Irving and his friends at Sunnyside

Washington Irving arrived in New York, after seventeen years abroad, on May 21, 1832. That September, he accompanied the U.S. Commissioner on Indian Affairs, Henry Leavitt Ellsworth, along with companions Charles La Trobe[59] and Count Albert-Alexandre de Pourtales, on a surveying mission deep in Indian Territory.[60] At the completion of his western tour, Irving traveled through Washington, D.C. and Baltimore, where he became acquainted with the politician and novelist John Pendleton Kennedy.[61]

Frustrated by bad investments, Irving turned to writing to generate additional income, beginning with A Tour on the Prairies, a work which related his recent travels on the frontier. The book was another popular success and also the first book written and published by Irving in the United States since A History of New York in 1809.[62] In 1834, he was approached by fur magnate John Jacob Astor, who convinced Irving to write a history of his fur trading colony in the American Northwest, now known as Astoria, Oregon. Irving made quick work of Astor's project, shipping the fawning biographical account titled Astoria in February 1836.[63] In 1835 Irving, Astor and a few others founded the Saint Nicholas Society in the City of New York.

During an extended stay at Astor's, Irving met the explorer Benjamin Bonneville, who intrigued Irving with his maps and stories of the territories beyond the Rocky Mountains.[64] When the two met in Washington, D.C. several months later, Bonneville opted to sell his maps and rough notes to Irving for $1,000.[65] Irving used these materials as the basis for his 1837 book The Adventures of Captain Bonneville.[66]

These three works made up Irving's "western" series of books and were written partly as a response to criticism that his time in England and Spain had made him more European than American.[67] In the minds of some critics, especially James Fenimore Cooper and Philip Freneau, Irving had turned his back on his American heritage in favor of English aristocracy.[68] Irving's western books, particularly A Tour on the Prairies, were well received in the United States,[69] though British critics accused Irving of "book-making".[70]

Irving acquired his famous home in Tarrytown, New York, known as Sunnyside, in 1835.

In 1835, Irving purchased a "neglected cottage" and its surrounding riverfront property in Tarrytown, New York. The house, which he named Sunnyside in 1841,[71] required constant repair and renovation over the next twenty years. With costs of Sunnyside escalating, Irving reluctantly agreed in 1839 to become a regular contributor to The Knickerbocker magazine, writing new essays and short stories under the Knickerbocker and Crayon pseudonyms.[72]

He was regularly approached by aspiring young authors for advice or endorsement, including Edgar Allan Poe, who sought Irving's comments on "William Wilson" and "The Fall of the House of Usher".[73] Irving also championed America's maturing literature, advocating stronger copyright laws to protect writers from the kind of piracy that had initially plagued The Sketch Book. Writing in the January 1840 issue of Knickerbocker, he openly endorsed copyright legislation pending in the U.S. Congress. "We have a young literature", he wrote, "springing up and daily unfolding itself with wonderful energy and luxuriance, which... deserves all its fostering care". The legislation did not pass.[74] In 1841, he was elected in the National Academy of Design as an Honorary Academician.[75]

Irving at this time also began a friendly correspondence with the English writer Charles Dickens and hosted the author and his wife at Sunnyside during Dickens's American tour in 1842.[76]

Minister to Spain[edit]

In 1842, after an endorsement from Secretary of State Daniel Webster, President John Tyler appointed Irving as Minister to Spain.[77] Irving was surprised and honored, writing, "It will be a severe trial to absent myself for a time from my dear little Sunnyside, but I shall return to it better enabled to carry it on comfortably".[78]

While Irving hoped his position as Minister would allow him plenty of time to write, Spain was in a state of perpetual political upheaval during most of his tenure, with a number of warring factions vying for control of the twelve-year-old Queen Isabella II.[79] Irving maintained good relations with the various generals and politicians, as control of Spain rotated through Espartero, Bravo, then Narvaez. However, the politics and warfare were exhausting, and Irving—homesick and suffering from a crippling skin condition—grew quickly disheartened:

I am wearied and at times heartsick of the wretched politics of this country. . . . The last ten or twelve years of my life, passed among sordid speculators in the United States, and political adventurers in Spain, has shewn me so much of the dark side of human nature, that I begin to have painful doubts of my fellow man; and look back with regret to the confiding period of my literary career, when, poor as a rat, but rich in dreams, I beheld the world through the medium of my imagination and was apt to believe men as good as I wished them to be.[80]

With the political situation in Spain relatively settled, Irving continued to closely monitor the development of the new government and the fate of Isabella. His official duties as Spanish Minister also involved negotiating American trade interests with Cuba and following the Spanish parliament's debates over slave trade. He was also pressed into service by the American Minister to the Court of St. James's in London, Louis McLane, to assist in negotiating the Anglo-American disagreement over the Oregon border that newly elected president James K. Polk had vowed to resolve.[81]

Final years and death[edit]

Washington Irving's headstone, Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, Sleepy Hollow, New York.

Returning from Spain in 1846, Irving took up permanent residence at Sunnyside and began work on an "Author's Revised Edition" of his works for publisher George Palmer Putnam. For its publication, Irving had made a deal that guaranteed him 12 percent of the retail price of all copies sold. Such an agreement was unprecedented at that time.[82] On the death of John Jacob Astor in 1848, Irving was hired as an executor of Astor's estate and appointed, by Astor's will, as first chairman of the Astor library, a forerunner to the New York Public Library.[83]

As he revised his older works for Putnam, Irving continued to write regularly, publishing biographies of the writer and poet Oliver Goldsmith in 1849 and the 1850 work about the Islamic prophet Muhammad. In 1855, he produced Wolfert's Roost, a collection of stories and essays he had originally written for The Knickerbocker and other publications,[84] and began publishing at intervals a biography of his namesake, George Washington, a work which he expected to be his masterpiece. Five volumes of the biography were published between 1855 and 1859.[85] Irving traveled regularly to Mount Vernon and Washington, D.C. for his research, and struck up friendships with Presidents Millard Fillmore and Franklin Pierce.[84]

He continued to socialize and keep up with his correspondence well into his seventies, and his fame and popularity continued to soar. "I don’t believe that any man, in any country, has ever had a more affectionate admiration for him than that given to you in America", wrote Senator William C. Preston in a letter to Irving. "I believe that we have had but one man who is so much in the popular heart".[86] By 1859, author Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr. noted that Sunnyside had become "next to Mount Vernon, the best known and most cherished of all the dwellings in our land".[87]

On the night of November 28, 1859, at 9:00 pm, only eight months after completing the final volume of his Washington biography, Washington Irving died of a heart attack in his bedroom at Sunnyside at the age of 76. Legend has it that his last words were: "Well, I must arrange my pillows for another night. When will this end?"[88] He was buried under a simple headstone at Sleepy Hollow cemetery on December 1, 1859.[89]

Irving and his grave were commemorated by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow in his 1876 poem, "In The Churchyard at Tarrytown", which concludes with:

How sweet a life was his; how sweet a death!

Living, to wing with mirth the weary hours,
Or with romantic tales the heart to cheer;
Dying, to leave a memory like the breath
Of summers full of sunshine and of showers,

A grief and gladness in the atmosphere.[90]


Literary reputation[edit]

Bust of Washington Irving in Irvington, New York, not far from Sunnyside

Irving is largely credited as the first American Man of Letters, and the first to earn his living solely by his pen. Eulogizing Irving before the Massachusetts Historical Society in December 1859, his friend, the poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, acknowledged Irving's role in promoting American literature: "We feel a just pride in his renown as an author, not forgetting that, to his other claims upon our gratitude, he adds also that of having been the first to win for our country an honourable name and position in the History of Letters".[91]

Irving perfected the American short story,[92] and was the first American writer to place his stories firmly in the United States, even as he poached from German or Dutch folklore. He is also generally credited as one of the first to write both in the vernacular, and without an obligation to the moral or didactic in his short stories, writing stories simply to entertain rather than to enlighten.[93] Irving also encouraged would-be writers. As George William Curtis noted, there "is not a young literary aspirant in the country, who, if he ever personally met Irving, did not hear from him the kindest words of sympathy, regard, and encouragement".[94]

Some critics, however—including Edgar Allan Poe—felt that while Irving should be given credit for being an innovator, the writing itself was often unsophisticated. "Irving is much over-rated", Poe wrote in 1838, "and a nice distinction might be drawn between his just and his surreptitious and adventitious reputation—between what is due to the pioneer solely, and what to the writer".[95] A critic for the New-York Mirror wrote: "No man in the Republic of Letters has been more overrated than Mr. Washington Irving".[96] Some critics noted especially that Irving, despite being an American, catered to British sensibilities and, as one critic noted, wrote "of and for England, rather than his own country".[97]

Other critics were inclined to be more forgiving of Irving's style. William Makepeace Thackeray was the first to refer to Irving as the "ambassador whom the New World of Letters sent to the Old",[98] a banner picked up by writers and critics throughout the 19th and 20th centuries. "He is the first of the American humorists, as he is almost the first of the American writers", wrote critic H.R. Hawless in 1881, "yet belonging to the New World, there is a quaint Old World flavor about him".[99]

Early critics often had difficulty separating Irving the man from Irving the writer—"The life of Washington Irving was one of the brightest ever led by an author", wrote Richard Henry Stoddard, an early Irving biographer[100]—but as years passed and Irving's celebrity personality faded into the background, critics often began to review his writings as all style, no substance. "The man had no message", said critic Barrett Wendell.[101] Yet, critics conceded that despite Irving's lack of sophisticated themes—Irving biographer Stanley T. Williams could be scathing in his assessment of Irving's work[102]—most agreed he wrote elegantly.

Impact on American culture[edit]

Irving popularized the nickname "Gotham" for New York City, later used in Batman comics and movies as the name of Gotham City, and is credited with inventing the expression "the almighty dollar".

The surname of his Dutch historian, Diedrich Knickerbocker, is generally associated with New York and New Yorkers, and can still be seen across the jerseys of New York's professional basketball team, albeit in its more familiar, abbreviated form, reading simply Knicks. In Bushwick, Brooklyn, a neighborhood of New York City, there are two parallel streets named Irving Avenue and Knickerbocker Avenue; the latter forms the core of the neighborhood's shopping district.

One of Irving's most lasting contributions to American culture is in the way Americans perceive and celebrate Christmas. In his 1812 revisions to A History of New York, Irving inserted a dream sequence featuring St. Nicholas soaring over treetops in a flying wagon—a creation others would later dress up as Santa Claus. In his five Christmas stories in The Sketch Book, Irving portrayed an idealized celebration of old-fashioned Christmas customs at a quaint English manor, that depicted harmonious warm-hearted English Christmas festivities he experienced while staying in Aston Hall, Birmingham, England, that had largely been abandoned.[103] He used text from The Vindication of Christmas (London 1652) of old English Christmas traditions, he had transcribed into his journal as a format for his stories.[104] The book contributed to the revival and reinterpretation of the Christmas holiday in the United States.[105]

John Quidor's painting The Headless Horseman Pursuing Ichabod Crane, inspired by Washington Irving's work.

The Community Area of Irving Park in Chicago was named in Irving's honor. The Irving Trust Corporation (now the Bank of New York Mellon Corporation) was named after him. Since there was not yet a federal currency in 1851, each bank issued its own paper and those institutions with the most appealing names found their certificates more widely accepted. His portrait appeared on the bank's notes and contributed to their wide appeal.

In his biography of Christopher Columbus,[106] Irving introduced the erroneous idea that Europeans believed the world to be flat prior to the discovery of the New World.[107] Borrowed from Irving, the flat-Earth myth has been taught in schools as fact to many generations of Americans.[108][109]

The American painter John Quidor based many of his paintings on scenes from the works of Irving about Dutch New York, including such paintings as Ichabod Crane Flying from the Headless Horseman (1828), The Return of Rip Van Winkle (1849), and The Headless Horseman Pursuing Ichabod Crane (1858).[110][111]


Washington Irving, postage stamp,1940

Washington Irving's home, Sunnyside, is still standing, just south of the Tappan Zee Bridge in Tarrytown, New York. The original house and the surrounding property were once owned by 18th-century colonialist Wolfert Acker, about whom Irving wrote his sketch Wolfert's Roost (the name of the house). The house is now owned and operated as a historic site by Historic Hudson Valley and is open to the public for tours. The Washington Irving Memorial by Daniel Chester French stands near the entrance to Sunnyside in the village of Irvington, which renamed itself from Dearman in his memory, and visitors to Christ Episcopal Church in nearby Tarrytown, where he served as a vestryman in the last years of his life, can see his pew. West, over the Catskills and in the Finger Lakes, Cornell University's oldest continuous student-run organization, The Irving Literary Society, is named for Washington Irving. His name is also frequently mentioned in Joseph Heller's novel Catch-22 in a recurring theme where his name is signed by other people to documents which triggers several military investigations as to who Washington Irving is. Throughout the United States, there are many schools named after Irving or after places in his fictional works. A Washington Irving Memorial Park and Arboretum exists in Oklahoma.

The city of Irving, Texas, states that it is named for Washington Irving.[112] Local historians believe that Irving co-founders Otis Brown and J. O. Schulze decided in 1902 to name the city after the favorite author of Otis Brown's wife, Netta Barcus Brown. Schulze, a graduate engineer from the University of Iowa and member of the Washington Irving Literary Society, also was partial to the name Irving. The Irving City Council officially adopted author Washington Irving as the city's namesake in 1998. The Indianapolis, Indiana neighborhood of Irvington is named after Washington Irving. The Chicago, Illinois neighborhood of Irving Park is also named after him. The town of Knickerbocker, Texas, was founded by two of Irving's nephews who named the town in honor of their uncle's literary pseudonym. [113]


Publication date
Written As
Letters of Jonathan Oldstyle 1802 Jonathan Oldstyle Observational Letters
Salmagundi 1807–1808 Launcelot Langstaff, Will Wizard Satire
A History of New York 1809 Diedrich Knickerbocker Satire
The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent. 1819–1820 Geoffrey Crayon Short stories/Essays
Bracebridge Hall 1822 Geoffrey Crayon Short stories/Essays
Tales of a Traveller 1824 Geoffrey Crayon Short stories/Essays
A History of the Life and Voyages of Christopher Columbus 1828 Washington Irving Biography/History
Chronicle of the Conquest of Granada 1829 Fray Antonio Agapida[114] Romantic history
Voyages and Discoveries
of the Companions of Columbus
1831 Washington Irving Biography/History
Tales of the Alhambra 1832 "The Author of the Sketch Book" Short stories/Travel
The Crayon Miscellany[115] 1835 Geoffrey Crayon Short stories
Astoria 1836 Washington Irving Biography/History
The Adventures of Captain Bonneville 1837 Washington Irving Biography/Romantic History
The Life of Oliver Goldsmith 1840
(revised 1849)
Washington Irving Biography
Biography and Poetical Remains
of the Late Margaret Miller Davidson
1841 Washington Irving Biography
Lives of Mahomet and His Successors 1850 Washington Irving Biography
Wolfert's Roost 1855 Geoffrey Crayon
Diedrich Knickerbocker
Washington Irving
The Life of George Washington (5 volumes) 1855–1859 Washington Irving Biography


  1. ^ a b Burstein, 7.
  2. ^ PMI, 1:26, et al.
  3. ^ PMI, 1:27.
  4. ^ Jones, 5.
  5. ^ "The life and letters of Washington Irving" Archive.org
  6. ^ Warner, 27; PMI, 1:36.
  7. ^ Jones, 11.
  8. ^ PMI, 1:42–43.
  9. ^ Burstein, 19.
  10. ^ Jones, 36.
  11. ^ a b Burstein, 43.
  12. ^ See Jones, 44–70
  13. ^ Washington Irving to William Irving Jr., September 20, 1804, Works 23:90.
  14. ^ Irving, Washington. "Memoir of Washington Allston", Works 2:175.
  15. ^ Washington Irving to Mrs. Amelia Foster, [April–May 1823], Works, 23:740-41. See also PMI, 1:173, Williams, 1:77, et al.
  16. ^ Burstein, 47.
  17. ^ Jones, 82.
  18. ^ Burrows, Edwin G. and Mike Wallace. Gotham: A History of New York City to 1898. (Oxford University Press, 1999), 417. See Jones, 74–75.
  19. ^ Jones, 118-27.
  20. ^ Burstein, 72.
  21. ^ Washington Irving to Mrs. Amelia Foster, [April–May 1823], Works, 23:741.
  22. ^ Oxford English Dictionary.
  23. ^ Hellman, 82.
  24. ^ Jones, 121–22.
  25. ^ Jones, 121.
  26. ^ Jones, 122.
  27. ^ Hellman, 87.
  28. ^ Hellman, 97.
  29. ^ Jones, 154-60.
  30. ^ Jones, 169.
  31. ^ William Irving Jr. to Washington Irving, New York, October 14, 1818, Williams, 1:170-71.
  32. ^ Washington Irving to Ebenezer Irving, [London, late November 1818], Works, 23:536.
  33. ^ See reviews from Quarterly Review and others, in The Sketch Book, xxv–xxviii; PMI 1:418–19.
  34. ^ Burstein, 114
  35. ^ Irving, Washington. "Preface to the Revised Edition", The Sketch Book, Works, 8:7; Jones, 188-89.
  36. ^ McClary, Ben Harris, ed. Washington Irving and the House of Murray. (University of Tennessee Press, 1969).
  37. ^ See comments of William Godwin, cited in PMI, 1:422; Lady Littleton, cited in PMI 2:20.
  38. ^ Aderman, Ralph M., ed. Critical Essays on Washington Irving. (G. K. Hall, 1990), 55–57; STW 1:209.
  39. ^ Aderman, 58–62.
  40. ^ See Reichart, Walter A. Washington Irving and Germany. (University of Michigan Press, 1957).
  41. ^ Jones, 207-14.
  42. ^ See Sanborn, F.B., ed. The Romance of Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, John Howard Payne and Washington Irving. Boston: Bibliophile Society, 1907.
  43. ^ Irving to Catharine Paris, Paris, September 20, 1824, Works 24:76
  44. ^ See reviews in Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine, Westminster Review, et al., 1824. Cited in Jones, 222.
  45. ^ Hellman, 170–89.
  46. ^ Burstein, 191.
  47. ^ Bowers, 22–48.
  48. ^ Burstein, 196.
  49. ^ Jones, 248.
  50. ^ Jones, 207.
  51. ^ Burstein, 212.
  52. ^ Burstein, 225.
  53. ^ Russell, Jeffrey Burton. Inventing the Flat Earth: Columbus and Modern Historians. Praeger Paperback, 1997. ISBN 0-275-95904-X
  54. ^ Washington Irving to Peter Irving, Alhambra, June 13, 1829. Works, 23:436
  55. ^ Hellman, 208.
  56. ^ PMI, 2:429, 430, 431–32
  57. ^ PMI, 3:17–21.
  58. ^ Washington Irving to Peter Irving, London, March 6, 1832, Works, 23:696
  59. ^ Jill Eastwood (1967). "La Trobe, Charles Joseph (1801–1875)". Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 2. MUP. pp. 89–93. Retrieved July 13, 2007. 
  60. ^ See Irving, "A Tour on the Prairies", Works 22.
  61. ^ Williams, 2:48–49
  62. ^ Jones, 318.
  63. ^ Jones, 324.
  64. ^ Williams, 2:76–77.
  65. ^ Jones, 323.
  66. ^ Burstein, 288.
  67. ^ Williams, 2:36.
  68. ^ Jones, 316.
  69. ^ Jones, 318-28.
  70. ^ Monthly Review, New and Improved, ser. 2 (June 1837): 279–90. See Aderman, Ralph M., ed. Critical Essays on Washington Irving. (G. K. Hall, 1990), 110–11.
  71. ^ Burstein, 295.
  72. ^ Jones, 333.
  73. ^ Edgar Allan Poe to N. C. Brooks, Philadelphia, September 4, 1838. Cited in Williams, 2:101-02.
  74. ^ Washington Irving to Lewis G. Clark, (before January 10, 1840), Works, 25:32–33.
  75. ^ "National Academicians". Retrieved January 18, 2014. 
  76. ^ Jones, 341.
  77. ^ Hellman, 257.
  78. ^ Washington Irving to Ebenezer Irving, New York, February 10, 1842, Works, 25:180.
  79. ^ Bowers, 127–275.
  80. ^ Irving to Thomas Wentworth Storrow, Madrid, 18 May 1844 , Works, 25:751
  81. ^ Jones, 415-56.
  82. ^ Jones, 464.
  83. ^ Hellman, 235.
  84. ^ a b Williams, 2:208–209.
  85. ^ Bryan, William Alfred. George Washington in American Literature 1775–1865. New York: Columbia University Press, 1952: 103.
  86. ^ William C. Preston to Washington Irving, Charlottesville, May 11, 1859, PMI, 4:286.
  87. ^ Kime, Wayne R. Pierre M. Irving and Washington Irving: A Collaboration in Life and Letters. Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 1977: 151. ISBN 0-88920-056-4
  88. ^ Nelson, Randy F. The Almanac of American Letters. Los Altos, California: William Kaufmann, Inc., 1981: 179. ISBN 0-86576-008-X
  89. ^ PMI, 4:328.
  90. ^ Longfellow, Henry Wadsworth. "In The Churchyard at Tarrytown", quoted in Burstein, 330.
  91. ^ Longfellow, Henry Wadsworth. "Address on the Death of Washington Irving", Poems and Other Writings, J.D. McClatchy, editor. (Library of America, 2000).
  92. ^ Leon H. Vincent, American Literary Masters, 1906.
  93. ^ Pattee, Fred Lewis. The First Century of American Literature, 1770–1870. New York: Cooper Square Publishers, 1935.
  94. ^ Kime, Wayne R. Pierre M. Irving and Washington Irving: A Collaboration in Life and Letters. Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 1977: 152. ISBN 0-88920-056-4
  95. ^ Poe to N.C. Brooks, Philadelphia, September 4, 1838. Cited in Williams 2:101-02.
  96. ^ Jones, 223
  97. ^ Jones, 291
  98. ^ Thackeray, Roundabout Papers, 1860.
  99. ^ Hawless, American Humorists, 1881.
  100. ^ Stoddard, The Life of Washington Irving, 1883.
  101. ^ Wendell, A Literary History of America, 1901.
  102. ^ See Williams, 2:Appendix III.
  103. ^ Kelly, Richard Michael (ed.) (2003), A Christmas Carol. p.20. Broadview Literary Texts, New York: Broadview Press, ISBN 1-55111-476-3
  104. ^ Restad, Penne L. (1995). Christmas in America: a History. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-510980-5 
  105. ^ See Stephen Nissebaum, The Battle for Christmas (Vintage, 1997)
  106. ^ See Irving, 1828; and his 1829 abridged version.
  107. ^ See Irving, 1829, Chapter VII: "Columbus before the council at Salamanca", pp. 40–47, especially p. 43.
  108. ^ Grant (Edward), 2001, p. 342.
  109. ^ Grant (John), 2006, p. 32, in the subsection "The Earth – Flat or Hollow?" beginning at p. 30, within Chapter 1 "Worlds in Upheval".
  110. ^ Caldwell, John; Rodriguez Roque, Oswaldo (1994). Kathleen Luhrs, ed. American Paintings in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Volume I: a Catalogue of Works by Artists Born By 1815. Dale T. Johnson, Carrie Rebora, Patricia R. Windels. The Metropolitan Museum of Art in association with Princeton University Press. pp. 479–482. 
  111. ^ Roger Panetta, ed. (2009). Dutch New York: the roots of Hudson Valley culture. Hudson River Museum. pp. 223–235. ISBN 978-0-8232-3039-6. 
  112. ^ "Declaration that Irving, TX is named for Washington Irving.". Retrieved 26 September 2014. 
  113. ^ http://irvingtx.net/common/irving-history.html
  114. ^ Irving's publisher, John Murray, overrode Irving's decision to use this pseudonym and published the book under Irving's name—much to the annoyance of its author. See Jones 258-59.
  115. ^ Composed of the three short stories "A Tour on the Prairies", "Abbotsford and Newstead Abbey", and "Legends of the Conquest of Spain".


  • Burstein, Andrew. The Original Knickerbocker: The Life of Washington Irving. (Basic Books, 2007). ISBN 978-0-465-00853-7
  • Bowers, Claude G. The Spanish Adventures of Washington Irving. (Riverside Press, 1940).
  • Hellman, George S. Washington Irving, Esquire. (Alfred A. Knopf, 1925).
  • Irving, Pierre M. Life and Letters of Washington Irving. 4 vols. (G.P. Putnam, 1862). Cited herein as PMI.
  • Irving, Washington. The Complete Works of Washington Irving. (Rust, et al., editors). 30 vols. (University of Wisconsin/Twayne, 1969–1986). Cited herein as Works.
  • Irving, Washington. (1828) History of the Life of Christopher Columbus, 3 volumes, 1828, G. & C. Carvill, publishers, New York, New York; as 4 volumes, 1828, John Murray, publisher, London; and as 4 volumes, 1828, Paris A. and W. Galignani, publishers, France.
  • Irving, Washington. (1829) The Life and Voyage of Christopher Columbus, 1 volume, 1829, G. & C. & H. Carvill, publishers, New York, New York; an abridged version prepared by Irving of his 1828 work.
  • Jones, Brian Jay. Washington Irving: An American Original. (Arcade, 2008). ISBN 978-1-55970-836-4
  • Warner, Charles Dudley. Washington Irving. (Riverside Press, 1881).
  • Williams, Stanley T. The Life of Washington Irving. 2 vols. (Oxford University Press, 1935). ISBN 0-7812-5291-1

External links[edit]

Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
Aaron Vail
U.S. Minister to Spain
Succeeded by
Romulus M. Saunders

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